Dunster House

Dunster House is one of twelve undergraduate residential Houses at Harvard University. Built in 1930, it is one of the first two dormitories at Harvard University constructed under President Abbott Lawrence Lowell's House Plan and one of the seven Houses given to Harvard by Edward Harkness. In the early days, room rents varied based on the floor and the size of the room. Dunster was unique among Harvard dormitories for its sixth-story walk-up (it had no elevators); these rooms were originally rented by poorer students, such as Norman Mailer.

Dunster House
Harvard University
The central tower of Dunster House
Location945 Memorial Drive
Coordinates42°22′07″N 71°06′58″W
Full nameHenry Dunster House
Named forHenry Dunster
Sister collegeBerkeley College
Freshman dormMower Hall, Lionel Hall, Massachusetts Hall, and Apley Court
Faculty DeansSean Kelly and Cheryl Chen
DeanMichael Uy
HoCo chairsJiho Park and Timothy Kang

The House was named in honor of Henry Dunster, the first President of Harvard University.


The tower of Dunster House is inspired by, but somewhat smaller than, the famous Tom Tower of Christ Church, Oxford. Above the east wing is the Dunster family coat of arms, and above the west wing is the coat of arms of Magdalene College, Cambridge, where Henry Dunster matriculated in 1627.[1] Magdalene College commemorated the relationship between the two universities by sending medieval tracery stones from the First Court of Magdalene; these are now set in the wall near the doors to J-entry of Dunster House.[2]

Dunster is located on the banks of the Charles River next to the John W. Weeks Footbridge, which links Harvard's Allston and Cambridge campuses. From above, its architectural shape, unusual among the River Houses, resembles a branching flowchart due to the odd trapezoidal footprint of the land on which it was built. Dunster underwent a "full House renewal," a comprehensive renovation that was completed in 2016.[3] It was the first of Harvard's residential houses to undergo such a full renewal.[4]

Dunster, like many of the Harvard Houses, has many yearly traditions, including Keg Races in the fall, Messiah sing-a-long in the winter,[5] the Goat Roast in the spring, and the yearly Dunster House Opera.[6] It is known as one of the more social houses at Harvard, boasting popular Stein Clubs and formals in either the beautiful dining hall or courtyard.

As of the 2017-2018 academic year, Dunster's Faculty Deans (formerly known as "house masters") are Sean Kelly and Cheryl Chen.[7] The House's first master was Chester N. Greenough (Harvard Class of 1898), English Professor and former Dean of Harvard College. Former faculty deans/house masters include Roger Porter and Ann Porter, Raoul Bott, and Sally Falk Moore and Cresap Moore. Michael Uy currently serves as the Allston Burr Resident Dean.[8] His predecessor was Carlos E. Diaz Rosillo.[9]

Dunster's mascot is the moose, inspired by the three golden elk on the Dunster family crest.

For many years Dunster was reputed to have the highest grade-point average (GPA) of any house.

Notable alumni

Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones were roommates at Dunster House in the late 1960s. Other notable Dunster alumni include Christopher Durang, Lindsay Hyde, Dan Wilson, and Jean Kwok.


  1. "Dunstor, Henry (DNSR627H)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. "Dunster House: History". The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  3. "Dunster House renewed". Harvard Gazette. 2016-03-31. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  4. Manning, Colin (30 January 2014). "Dunster Reimagined". Harvard Gazette. The President and Fellows of Harvard College. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  5. "Inside the annual 'Messiah' sing". Harvard Gazette. 2013-12-16. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  6. "A look inside: Dunster House". Harvard Gazette. 2011-02-17. Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  7. "Dunster, Mather House Faculty Deans Settle Into New Positions | News | The Harvard Crimson". Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  8. "Allston Burr Resident Deans and Assistant Deans of Harvard College". Retrieved 2018-02-08.
  9. "Resident Dean Dunster House". Harvard University. Archived from the original on 2009-08-09. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
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